Pandora Says High Royalty Rates Are Putting Them Out of Business

August 18, 2008 10:59 AM ET

Web radio giant (and music recommendation service) Pandora is on the verge of shutting down due to high royalty fees, says the company's founder. Despite a million daily listeners and an iPhone application that attracts roughly 40,000 new customers a day, Pandora's founder says, "We're approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision. This is like a last stand for webcasting." The cause of death may be a decision made last year by a federal panel that doubled the per-song performance royalty of tracks played on Internet radio stations. "I was on the bus when I get this message on my Treo," Westergren tells the Washington Post. "I thought, 'We're dead.' " Pandora stands to lose 70 percent of its $25 million revenue in royalty fees. Negotiations are underway between Webcasters and SoundExchange, a company that represents artists and record companies, to lower the fees. By comparison, traditional radio stations don't pay any royalties, while satellite radio stations face a much smaller fee. On June 26th, 2007, thousands of Internet radio stations went silent to protest the higher fees.

Related Stories:
Public Outcry Staves Off Destruction of Internet Radio
Internet Radio's Day of Silence
Pandora Radio Leads The Best New Music-Related iPhone Apps

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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